Yesterday Ian packed the car and the trailer with a piece of furniture he has been making for younger son and his wife and an assortment of things to go down with him to Devon. This morning at eight o' clock he drove away before it was properly light, going to Devon via my brother's house in Chepstow on a long drive south and west through a cold January day. Ages ago I blogged here about whether you are the leaver or the left, whether you are the one who stays and holds the fort or the one who goes away, briefly or for longer stretches. In our marriage I have tended to be the leaver, working away, travelling for work, always looking forward to coming home but very used to the idea that home went on without me. It was hard to begin with but I got used to it and there were pleasures in solitary time too. Since I did my downsizing when I left my big job three years ago I am home most of the time and since my father in law came to live with us both Ian and I live a much more home based life than we used to. Generally if anyone goes away it is still me: visiting children and grandchildren, catching up with friends, while Ian stays and looks after his father. But part of the way in which we are choosing to deal with the problems of ill health in my family, so far away, is for one or the other of us to spend a week down there every six weeks or so. So far that has been me but we wanted to share things, both at home and away, so this week Ian is down with my family and I am on father in law watch.
It is a long time since Ian has been away for so long. When I read my earlier post I am struck by how different life is now. Then I wrote about the silence and the luxury of having the house to yourself, even though I missed Ian and by the time he returned was longing for him to come home. Now there is not that silence but the noise of my father in law singing in the kitchen or the distant sound of old cowboy films from his television. There is no luxury in it, more a sense of responsibility. The responsibility is not onerous, not as onerous as what Ian will be doing all those miles away, but it is a responsibility.
Perhaps that is why it has taken me all day to settle into being without Ian. I have a list as long as my arm of things to do while he is away: finishing my accounts, filing my tax return, Welsh, yoga, writing, walking, buying curtain material for the holiday cottage and starting to make the new curtains. I couldn't get it all done in a week if I gave up sleep. But I have been drifting and fiddling, reading blogs rather than writing one, filling the bird feeders, wandering out to look at the chickens scratching busily in the cold. I was going to walk after lunch but the wind was hard and icy cold with tiny scatterings of snow in it. Even going out for logs made my hands and feet cold and my ears begin to ache. The sky was too light for much snow but the cold bit through my jeans and the wind lashed my hair against my cold face. It was a relief to come back in by the stove.
I am settling to aloneness now. I am planning some trips out and some bits of sanity saving company and I realise of course that what I really need to do is to knit. Knitting is the perfect occupation when you need to avoid doing your tax return or anything else vaguely dutiful and unpleasant. It makes you feel happily busy and gives you the compulsive satisfaction of seeing something real emerge beneath your hands. It uses just enough of the brain to prevent you from thinking much about anything else and the very action of the needles is a meditation.
I have some Debbie Bliss wool left over from a cowl made last year and I am going to make some fingerless gloves. I have developed a real love for fingerless gloves despite the fact that my loving children laugh at me and tell me I am wearing bag lady gloves (well not all of my children but you know who you are!). I am amazed at how warm they are and at how well they combine with wandering around the garden and shutting up the chickens and bringing in logs. And they are quick and allow you to feel that you are achieving, not procrastinating at all.
This is a very beautiful picture of the pattern, courtesy of aspenglow on Flickr. I will be delighted if mine look half as good as this!
So here I sit by the stove, the wool and the needles ready on the sofa, the cat sleeping on the back of the chair, noticing that Ian is not here. That is one of the good things about time apart: it makes you appreciate the person you live with!
What do you do with time when your partner is away if you have any? If you don't have a partner do you relish your solitude or fill it?